Fat Transfer (Microlipoinjection)
If you have considered undergoing a facial rejuvenation procedure but don’t think you’re ready for a face lift or other form of facial plastic surgery, you may wish to investigate facial fat injections. This injection method of facial fat sculpting, also called microlipoinjection, can restore attractive contours to your cheeks, chin, and under-eye area, and add volume to your lips.
What Is Microlipoinjection/Autologous Fat Transfer?
Microlipoinjection , also called autologous fat transfer, is a procedure in which an individual’s own body fat is used to plump up sunken or emaciated areas of the face or to add volume where desired. The word “autologous” simply refers to the use of one’s own tissues or fat. Because the patient’s own fat is used, autologous fat transfer requires three steps. The first step involves the gentle liposuction of some excess fat (such as that found in the jowls, abdomen, thighs, or buttocks). The second step involves the isolation and cleansing of the fat cells. The third and final step involves the injection of the fat cells into the targeted facial areas (i.e., the fat cell transplantation).
Facial fat injections can eliminate aspects of facial “wear and tear” that often appear with age, such as smile lines, frown lines, marionette lines (running from the sides of the mouth down to the chin), wrinkles and furrows, and hollows in the face (such as under the eyes or under the cheekbones). Lips that have lost volume may also be treated through fat transfer as can scars or depressions in the face from scars (such as those from acne). Individuals with one or more of these conditions may be good candidates for autologous fat transfer.
In general, candidates for fat transfer are adults who would like to diminish or eliminate the appearance of wrinkles, creases, furrows, smile lines or frown lines, marionette lines, or depressions in the face. Fat injection may also be used for lip augmentation. Younger patients may be eligible for fat transfer in some cases.
A fat transfer via injection is also often used in patients who have experienced lipoatrophy, which is loss of the layer of fat in the face that forms the contours of the cheeks and jawline. A fat transfer can fill in the hollow areas and restore pleasing contours to the face.
Those suffering from a facial problem that isn’t listed above should still talk to a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon about whether fat injection treatment could help, or whether it would work well as a complement to another facial treatment.
The safety of the autologous fat transfer technique ensures that there are no restrictions associated with allergies. However, at your first appointment, you should be sure to disclose all of your medical history and current habits such as smoking and use of blood-thinners, medications, birth control pills, or supplements, so that your dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon can accurately determine whether you’re a good candidate for fat transfer.
The facial areas that can be improved with fat injection treatment include creases in the forehead or in between the eyebrows, and hollows under the eyes. Fat injection can also plump up or improve the contour around the nose, the area between the upper lip and the nose, the jawline, and the temples. Indeed, fat transfer can correct scars, sunken or hollow areas, and any place on the face or neck where fat has been lost.
Some of these facial areas need only one fat injection for noticeable and long-lasting improvement, whereas others will require more than one fat transfer to be adequately corrected.
The most important difference between autologous fat injection and other types of dermal fillers is that fat transfer doesn’t introduce a foreign material into the body. This aspect of fat transfer is particularly beneficial for people who are allergic or sensitive to filler products.
Another factor that sets facial fat injection apart from other dermal fillers is the length of time that the volume enhancement provided by a fat transfer lasts. Generally, the effects of fat injection can last from several months to two years or more. In some cases, the effects last indefinitely. By contrast, dermal fillers that contain hyaluronic acid, such as Restylane®, break down and disappear over the course of several months, making additional treatments necessary.
The Fat Transfer and Re-Injection Procedure
The fat transfer procedure is a simple three-step process of removing fat from one area of the body and purifying it, then injecting the fat cells into the target site. Fat transfer results are usually noticeable immediately after the procedure and can last several months or years, or even permanently.
Preparing for the Fat Transfer Procedure
A fat transfer procedure performed alone (that is, not with another procedure such as extensive body contouring) is usually done with local anesthesia only, not general anesthesia that would put the patient to sleep. Some physicians may also offer an oral sedative for patients who are more apprehensive, but this isn’t usually needed. The type and amount of anesthesia depend in part on the amount of liposuction and fat transfer you require, which will be determined by your doctor.
A fat transfer procedure can usually be performed as an outpatient procedure at your cosmetic surgeon’s office. You should avoid the use of blood thinners such as ibuprofen (Motrin® and Advil®), aspirin, and Naprosyn® for two weeks before the fat transfer procedure. Since there’s no risk of an allergic reaction to your own fat cells, there’s no need for pre-procedure allergy testing.
Recovery and Results – What to Expect
Once your fat transfer is complete, you may have some slight swelling and/or bruising at the donor site or the target site(s) on your face. The swelling can be expected to go away in a few days, and any discomfort you feel can be controlled with pain medication. As with all medical procedures, you should follow all postoperative instructions from your cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist. Many patients return to their normal daily activities within hours or a day or two of the fat transfer procedure.
You can expect fat transfer results that are immediately apparent or that will be clear after any swelling has receded. A significant benefit of this technique is that the results generally last much longer than the results of other dermal fillers such as Restylane®, collagen injections, and Juvéderm®. Individual fat transfer results definitely vary, but with a properly performed procedure, the results may last for years, or even permanently.
Risks and Benefits
Facial fat sculpting offers several major benefits. In addition to correcting problems of the aging face, autologous fat transfer is natural. The material used is not from an animal, or a cadaver, or a synthetic product. It’s also versatile; the fat can be used for many facial imperfections, including scars and depressions in the skin. The effects of facial fat sculpting are very long-lasting — facial fat injections last significantly longer than cosmetic injectables such as collagen, Restylane®, and Juvéderm. And facial fat sculpting is safe, since there are no allergic reactions to worry about, because the fat transplantation is from your own body.
Microlipoinjection is also an excellent complement to facial resurfacing procedures, such as microdermabrasion and chemical peels, and to BOTOX® Cosmetic injections and Lipodissolve™ on the chin.
The risks of fat transfer/fat injection are few and minimal. Soreness and swelling are possible, but they’re not commonly experienced. One should consider all of the risks and benefits of fat transfer before undergoing treatment.
Facial Fat Transfer FAQs
If you are interested in undergoing fat transfer, you probably have a fair number of questions that haven’t yet been addressed on this page. The following are some of the questions many patients have about the procedure. For answers to your specific questions, schedule a consultation with a qualified doctor in your area.
These terms do in fact all refer to the same procedure. Fat transfer, fat grafting, and microlipoinjection are all names for the process of removing fat from one area of the body via needle and syringe, purifying the fat, and then injecting it back into another area of the body that needs a little smoothing or augmentation. The fat transfer procedure usually is designed to fill in facial creases caused by age. Lip augmentation with fat transfer is also possible. The amount of fat taken out of the donor area – usually the abdomen, rear end, or thighs – is significantly less than that removed in liposuction surgery.
Fat injections, which transfer the patient’s own tissue from an area of excess to an area in need of filling, have at least one major benefit over artificial dermal fillers: they have no chance of causing an allergic reaction. Anytime a substance from another organism (dermal fillers are often made from derivatives of bird tissue) is introduced into the body, there is the possibility of an adverse reaction from the immune system, which may perceive the material as a threat. Fat transfers avoid this problem, since the body will recognize the tissue at its own, even in its new location.
One of the benefits of fat transfer is that it can address two problems at once. The fat for the injections may be taken from any spot on the body that contains a concentration of excess fatty tissue. The patient and the doctor will work together to decide which areas of the body are eligible, and which the patient would most like to see reduced.
The pain from fat grafting should be minimal in almost all cases. Discomfort should be only short term and usually can be managed with oral pain medication. If you are concerned about the pain, you may discuss options for prescription medication to be taken after the fat injections.
Recovery after fat transfer is relatively fast and easy compared to other cosmetic surgery procedures. Incisions are usually avoided, and discomfort is minimal. Most patients can move about and engage in normal activities the same day of the injections.
There is no definite length to the amount of time that the benefits of a fat transfer will last. Over the course of a few years, a portion of the injected fat will be reabsorbed and dispersed by the body. A fraction, perhaps around a third of the original volume, will remain in place. New fat grafting methods are always being developed, though, many of which offer longer lasting results.
Though it depends on the extent of change the patient desires, multiple fat transfer injections are very often recommended by the cosmetic surgeon performing the procedure. Splitting the procedure up into multiple installments allows for more tissue to be transferred with less damage to both the donor and injection sites. Your doctor can go over the pros and cons of various treatment options with you in detail.